Farmers’ Market Recipe – Fruit Shrubs

ImageLast Saturday I was confronted with a produce dilemma. When I got home from the market, I opened the fridge to put my new veg away and I was confronted with several quarts of strawberries. I had forgotten about them. I bought them as “seconds”; produce vendors at the market sometimes sell product that is not up to snuff in some way for a reduced price. Typically there is nothing wrong but a small bruise, a tiny nick, an obscure shape. In this case, these berries were dirty – they couldn’t be washed to be sellable because washing strawberries decreases their shelf life. So, I had bought this quantity of berries at a reduced price, but hadn’t yet found time to process them. AND I was working Sunday and Monday and leaving town on Tuesday. I had to deal with them.

Strawberry jam is my favorite. I don’t use pectin in it – the berries have enough of it themselves that with slightly longer cooking, the jam will gel a bit on it’s own. I also throw in a vanilla bean. It’s WONDERFUL. I made two batches as normal, and the third batch I tried with brown sugar. (Because I was curious. Oh, and because I ran out of white sugar and didn’t want to go to the store…) And I STILL had strawberries. Three batches of jam takes quite a bit of time, and I was ready to be done. I decided to try my hand at something new – a shrub.

Have you read about them? I have seen them here and there on the internet, mostly on sites focused on preserving. (Food in Jars, Food52, Punk Domestics) They are a fruit based drinking vinegar – a sweet and acidic fruit concentrate used in cocktails or diluted with water, still or sparkling. Since first learning about them, I have been intrigued, but also skeptical. That recently changed.

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The Strawberry New Fashioned. One of the featured cocktails at June’s Seasonal Fruit Cocktail class at Spice.

A couple Sundays ago, I went to Spice Kitchen + Bar for a seasonal fruit focused cocktail class. (For more information about these awesome events, click here. July features blackberries, August peaches and September apples.) The focus of the day’s program was strawberries. Dave, Spice’s talented, creative and knowledgeable, lead bartender shared some seasonal cocktails all including strawberries or a strawberry preservation.

Our second cocktail was a Strawberry Rhubarb Tequila Collins which featured a strawberry/rhubarb shrub. The tang of the shrub paired well with the tequila. With a few drops of lemon bitters and topped with sparkling wine, the cocktail was dry and refreshing in the most beautiful way. Needless to say, I became a full-on believer in shrubs.

The equation is simply. 1 part fruit, 1 part sugar, 1 part vinegar.

This is Dave’s recipe for the Strawberry/Rhubarb Shrub:

  • 1 cup strawberries, sliced
  • 1 cup rhubarb, sliced
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup white balsamic vinegar

Combine the fruit in sugar in a glass or non-reactive metal bowl. Cover tightly. Let sit at room temperature for 24-36 hours. Add vinegar and put in fridge for another 24-36 hours. Strain fruit, mashing to extract as much liquid as possible. Store liquid in fridge. Wait at least 3 days before consuming for most developed flavor.

I had no rhubarb, so I went with 2 cups of strawberries. That’s a great thing about shrubs – it’s a method more than a recipe, so substitutions are easy to make. Change up the fruit, use a different sugar, try different vinegars.

I have yet to try my shrub. I am in the final waiting period. I think it’s good that I am out of town, because I am not very patient…

And because I know you are going to ask, here is the recipe for Dave’s Strawberry Rhubarb Tequila Collins:

  • 2oz Reposado Tequila (we used Herradura)
  • 2oz Strawberry/Rhubarb Shrub
  • Top with Cava or Sparkling wine
  • 2-3 dashes of lemon bitters
  • Garnish with mint
Shake the tequila and shrub, strain in a Collins glass over ice, top with sparkling, add bitters and mint.
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